This week’s Danger Gal post profiles Raquel Donovan from Heather Massey’s debut space opera romance ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE. Here’s the story summary:

In the sea of stars, an epic love story is about to begin…

Earth is dying. Nick Venture, the last living descendant of Christopher Columbus, embarks on a dangerous mission to find a new planet and save humanity. This places him on a collision course with Raquel Donovan, the deadliest space pirate in the galaxy.

Raquel lives for one purpose: revenge against a horrible demon from her past. When an attempt to hijack Nick’s starship backfires, Raquel becomes his protector in order to avoid capture by the tyrannical Space Defense Corps. Nick and Raquel are irresistibly drawn to one another despite the forbidden nature of their attraction. But the conflicted pirate’s deepest secret could tear the couple apart even as humanity’s time runs out….

One of my favorite aspects of this story is indeed the heroine. As Heather and I have discussed on our own blogs and elsewhere, in Romance so often it’s the hero who gets to have all the fun. They often get to be real monsters with a true redemption story and reward of love when, in contrast, heroines are confined to being stereotypically pretty and likable. We recently had a great discussion on this topic over at Dear Author with Heather’s guest post “Enter the Extraordinary Heroine: Are We Ready For Her Yet?” where we talked about paranormal and gritty — sometimes called unlikable* — heroines.

In the past five years I’ve seen the tide turning, however, and I really hope we continue to see a wider range of heroines. I have nothing against the girl-next-door and her out-of-this-world vampire/alien boyfriend story line, but prefer this character type be part of a larger spectrum and not the only offering. After all, when the hero is the bad boy in need of redemption, it’s the heroine who carries out that redemption, so I don’t see this role as passive. To quote Teresa Medeiros “[P]robably the most subversive thing we dare to do is to make the woman the hero of her own story.”

One of the reasons I write this blog is to call attention to those heroines who break the “good girl” mold. Raquel Donovan is a hardened space pirate and certainly acts like one with her behavior sometimes bordering on cruel. Like we’re used to seeing with so many heroes, Donovan has reasons that explain such behavior. She’s lived through some pretty terrible experiences.** She’s on a revenge mission and nothing will get in the way of that need. Well, nothing except the hero.

I don’t want to spoil the plot of this new release, but Donovan’s sex appeal isn’t martyred in building such a hardened character. She is actually known far and wide as The Siren. This despite the fact, or more likely because of it, that she’s lost an eye. Massey didn’t pull any punches when it came to creating Donovan. I appreciated that Donovan’s deformity was front and center instead of hidden from all but the hero, as is often the case. Early on, we see inklings of a softer — and very well protected — side of Donovan, but it takes the hero the whole book to be let in on that. In the meantime, he trusts his gut and intuition and offers the redemption so many Romance heroines have been rewarding heroes with for the past thirty-some years in the Romance genre.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN SPACE is available from Red Sage Publishing and features the last living descendant of Christopher Columbus on a desperate quest to find a new world. Standing in his way is Raquel, the deadliest space pirate in the galaxy.

To learn more about Heather Massey, visit her at

* Because, you know, one of the worst things a woman can do is be unlikable.
** Lo and behold, Donovan is also a heroine whose terrible experience is not rape.

4 Responses to “Danger Gal Friday: Raquel Donovan”

  1. I do like Raquel because she is different. I like that she has secrets, she is stronger than most, she is ruthless yet, hmm, can be softened by the hero eventually. So are we setting a new precedence in SFR with this heroine? Granted there are other strong kick-butt heroines throughout SFR, but I enjoyed watching Raquel unfold as a character.

  2. I do think SFR has the potential to break out this new type of heroine in similar ways to how Urban Fantasy has also gone down this road.

    Lara, my heroine in The Spiral Path, is not as ruthless as Raquel. However, there is a secondary love story in The Spiral Path that I plan to continue with through the other two books in the trilogy — and she’s a real monster. 🙂

  3. Raquel is a fascinating character. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but it struck me then that Raquel could have just as easily been the villain. Can’t wait to read about her journey to redemption.

  4. I think we worry a lot about unlikable, (is that a girl thing? I have to wonder, because you don’t hear guys worrying about that!), but maybe unrelatable is the problem we fear when writing the un-sweet heroine? I find Raquel very likable! I’ve just started the book, but my first reaction is, “You go, girl!”

    While I’ve never been a space pirate, or lost an eye, I also find her relatable. We’ve all been hurt by life. Fiction allows us to vicariously “hit back” at those who hurt us. Or to feel powerful when inside, we often don’t feel our own power?

    Not sure this makes sense, but its Monday, I don’t feel powerful at ALL because I’m coming down with a cold. So let me repeat, YOU GO GIRL! (Author and character!)

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